James Blake Explains How His Beyoncé Collab Came Together & How His Drake Collab Fell Apart
James Blake was one of the few artists other than Beyoncé who got a spotlight on Lemonade, and in Spotify’s new Secret Genius series he explains how that “Forward” collaboration came about.
“How it happened, I can’t quite remember, to be honest. But I do remember thinking ‘I’m not sure how I’m gonna feel when I do this, because I’m gonna be very nervous,'” Blake recalls. Basically, he ended up going off-script and sang his own lyrics “about something else and about somebody else,” and the result ended up fitting.
“I’m really happy with it, oh god I love the way she sounds harmonizing with me,” he says. “If anything it just gave me an appetite to work with her more. Because I’d love to hear a full song in that way. Maybe I would offer a song up to work on.”
He’s just the latest of Lemonade‘s cast of characters to shed light on the process behind Bey’s second visual album. Most recently, Mike Will Made-It explained how “Formation” started as a backseat freestyle.
In the same episode, Blake also reveals the time he turned down Drake — or at least Drake’s collaborative process. You may remember that Blake’s voice appeared on the original “0 To 100/The Catch Up” a couple years ago. But when it got an official release, Blake’s coda was excised, and now he explains it’s because he never approved it:
“I got an email the day before ‘0 To 100/The Catch Up’ came out, and it just said ‘hey we’re using this beat that you made four years ago.’ And I only sent it as a collaborative idea, not to be sampled on record. ‘Hey we’re using this, just quickly send me your approval so we can just put it out.’ I said no, so I got them to take it off. I remember having a conversation with my publisher later…because you know, that’s a massive album. I asked how much money exactly I’d turned down by doing that. And it was, I spat out my drink…I a little bit regretted it later, because it is good, it sounds good on the track. I just did it as a matter of principle at the time. I really liked it, and I think had they come to me beforehand and said ‘hey we wanna use this’ I would’ve said yes. I just don’t want, just because someone has an impressive amount of clout and a global platform, I don’t give a shit about that. I just want to make good music with people. And it was good music. But just ask me.”
Ultimately, he says he wishes the version with him was out, but he doesn’t regret the decision. Hear the whole show below.